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New Cadillac ATS:
A Shot Across BMW’s Bow

January 10, 2012 by Matt

Cadillac ATS Red 2013

Behold, the Great American Sports Sedan. The long-awaited indigenous usurper of the BMW 3 series throne. The convergence of all of our uniquely American know-how and expertise into a stunning, compelling car that is…as European as it can be.

Yep, only 40+ years after the arrival on our shores of the BMW 2002, it’s now safe to say that Cadillac has “gotten it,” in the sense that they understand that car’s appeal and have developed a product to match its modern incarnation, the BMW 3 series. It’s not like they didn’t “try”—each successive generation of luxury import-fighter from Cadillac has seemed like an incorrect answer to a question BMW aced way back in the ’60s. And after first trying smaller size, glitz, even smaller size, power and gadgets, by virtue of the process of elimination, the American automaker has come full circle and finally, finally realized it’s the chassis and the drive that enthusiasts crave. So they’ve made something small-ish, nimble, RWD and optioned it with a three-pedal manual transmission. I can hear the collective exasperation of American car buffs: “YES! Yes, that’s the combination we’ve been wanting for ages… What took you so long?”

Cadillac ATS Red 2013

So now that it’s here, what’s it like? Having only just been revealed, full road tests by independent publications are forthcoming; however, Cadillac put together a series of teaser videos showcasing the development time poured into chassis tuning. Also, Cadillac has finally proven it can build a car which actually handles in the latest CTS and CTS-V, so there’s good reason to believe they’ll do it right with the ATS as well. A good sign Cadillac’s priorities are straight is the commendably low weight of around 3400 lbs, lighter than its ballooning German rivals the 3 series and Merc C-class. The distribution of that weight relative to the wheelbase is close to 50/50 as well, and the chassis tuners would have to be ham-fisted indeed to screw up that combination of ingredients. Power for the ATS comes in a few flavors, including a 2.5l NA 4-cylinder, a 2.0l 270-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder, a 3.6l 318-hp V6 and an efficient diesel further down the line. 6-speed automatic or manual transmissions will be offered; which engines the stickshift will be available with hasn’t yet been revealed. Hopefully all of them.

Cadillac ATS Interior Inside Cockpit Dashboard

As much a BMW fan as I am, I really hope Cadillac pulls this off. Not only out of a sense of national pride (though admittedly that’s dampened a tiny bit by the car’s very European-ness), but strong competition makes all competitors stronger, and a excellent ATS will only mean a better 3 series; the Bavarian car certainly isn’t going anywhere. Also, I feel BMW has lost their way in the past decade or so, perhaps growing complacent atop the sports sedan podium, and has allowed weight and an excessive amount of gadgetry to creep into their whole lineup. If the ATS is a more straightforward, “honest” sports sedan, as I very much feel it will be, maybe it will help talk performance automakers down from the ledge of electronic trickery they’ve been teetering on for some time. Might it be that the ATS isn’t just the Great American Sports Sedan, but the Great Sport Sedan Enthusiast Hope, irrespective of nationality?

Filed under: Auto Shows, Cadillac, News

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